Maribel Reyes was living in South Central Los Angeles with her spouse, stepson and baby daughter when her family was evicted.
As the family stayed in motels and their car, while trying to seek help from a shelter, it seemed like nowhere was able to help, Reyes, 40, said.
”I was ashamed of what I was going through,” Reyes said. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Reyes’ only hope was one last number her family had been given—the number of Family Promise of the South Bay, a nonprofit that supports families facing housing insecurity, and the organization that was able to get the Reyes family into shelter.
“It was a miracle, it was a blessing that Family Promise was the people to help us,” said Reyes. “They hear us out and they understood the struggle we were going through, so they opened the door for us.”
Family Promise was initially founded in 2015 as a solution to the family separation that often occurs with housing insecurity, as many shelters separate men from women and children.
Even as Reyes’ family has found permanent housing and stability, the organization has stayed in touch—and last winter, it called her with a potential work opportunity, at a new coffee house opening in the Wrigley neighborhood.
Located on Willow Street in the former location of Fox Coffee House, Wrigley Coffee is more than just a coffee house. It’s a Family Promise of South Bay program with a social impact mission.
Today, Feb. 1, Wrigley Coffee is celebrating its first anniversary—and a year of providing trauma-informed workplace development for parents who have faced housing insecurity.
“We wanted to start small, and then this year will be our year of growth,” said Executive Director Lori Eastman.
At Wrigley Coffee, work development program participants are partnered with an experienced barista. “You don’t know if your barista has ever experienced homelessness or not,” Eastman said. “They’re just a barista.”
Apart from working at the coffee shop, participants also work through a curriculum of about 12 weeks, including everything from resume development, interviewing and communicating with bosses, Eastman said. They are paid for up to 200 hours through a partnership with Pacific Gateway, Long Beach’s workforce development agency.
“It’s pretty fast-paced, but we want to keep the momentum going for them,” Eastman said.
For parents who are navigating housing insecurity, finding steady employment can be further complicated by child care needs and lack of consistent or relevant work experience, Eastman said.
With these barriers in mind, Wrigley Coffee is meant to serve as a sustainable solution with a trauma-centered lens, serving as a means to gain work experience, references and necessary skills, with the goal of securing a permanent position after completing the program.
Combining a social enterprise with a business model isn’t an entirely new concept, said Eastman, referencing Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, a business that has expanded to a bakery, cafe and more, while providing employment opportunities to former gang members.
“I think social enterprises are becoming a kind of new way of trying to help solve social issues in the community,” Eastman said. “I think it’s becoming more common as we’re trying to think of creative ways to solve housing insecurity for individuals and realizing that … it’s not just a one-size-fits-all.”
As a nonprofit, Wrigley Coffee’s purpose is not to earn money, but to support the families being served, Eastman said, over the past year, the coffee house has carved out a spot for itself in the community, both as a business and as a social enterprise.
From hosting yoga classes, open mic nights and spoken word events, to having rooms available to reserve for studying and working, “as a coffee shop, we’ve been so well received in the community,” Eastman said. “It’s been really amazing to just have the support of the Wrigley neighborhood and the city of Long Beach rallying around us with our mission.”
As Eastman looks ahead at the second year of Wrigley Coffee, she has her eyes set on two growth opportunities: further developing relationships with other Long Beach businesses (in order to potentially provide work opportunities for participants) and having more participants in the program.
“Our work is important to just be a piece of a possible solution,” Eastman said. “Even if it’s a handful of people, that’s OK with me.”
Over the past year, five participants including Reyes have graduated from the workforce development program and have since earned full-time employment.
“I try not to look back on the past, I just focus on the present and what to do next, and the confidence of just keep pushing up, keep it forward and never give up,” said Reyes.
On Reyes’ last day of the development program, she was offered employment at Wrigley Coffee.
“When I heard the news that they wanted me to still keep me here as a team member, I didn’t even think about it twice. I said ‘Of course,’” Reyes said. “It just made me more opened up … more confident that there is always help. There’s always hope by speaking up.”
Wrigley Coffee is located at 437 W. Willow St. and is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.